I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)

25 05 2009

Another very impressive effort from the Archers, although this one is a lot less dark and complicated than The Small Back Room. The cinematography, on the other hand, is just as excellent, if not better. If The Small Back Room excelled in presenting a claustrophobic arena pushing down on its protagonist, I Know Where I’m Going! excels in placing a overly organized character in an environment that is both literally and emotionally, too open for her. While the nearly fantastical depiction of a romance does show some similarities with Frank Borzage’s work, I found that this had more in common with the cinema of Hiroshi Shimizu.

Like Shimizu, the story here isn’t all remarkable. The characters aren’t observed, or developed in a extensive or attentive manner. Instead, the story here plays out like a poem, which perfectly underscores the poetry of the Archers’ images. The characters of Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) and Torquil MacNeil (Roger Livesey) are full and complex characters, but this isn’t an Ozu film, we aren’t going to get complete portraits of them or anybody else in the film. Like Shimizu’s work, the audience is often left to fill in some of the details, as the main intention is depicting the far from objective event of falling in love.

Actually, there’s more than a few similarities between this and Gremillon’s Maldone. The Archers aren’t trying to make a straight-forward, or even realistic picture, because the fact remains that their content isn’t exactly ordinary. This, however, does not cheapen their sentiments or observations in the least. If anything, it makes them slightly more accessible. On the other hand, this does mean the film is a little far from being the “truth” (if that makes sense) but again, the intentions of the filmmakers does not lie in finding the profound in the simple, but perhaps in finding the simplistic in the profound.

If you can follow me then you can agree that the latter approach is very common in conventional, modern filmmaking. This doesn’t mean the Archers or even Shimizu are forerunners to Joe Wright, or whoever else makes “romance” films these days. Shimizu and the Archers are operating on a level that acknowledges the limits of their dramatized scenarios, and by turn, then transcends such limits. I Know Where I’m Going! doesn’t overwhelmingly move me lik Shimizu’s best work does, but it tries awfully hard to do so in a similar way. I think my words have sold the Archers (and even Shimizu) short as merely variations of conventional depictions of love stories, but there is something in the work of all three directors that elevates itself beyond simple wish fulfillment or a way to kill time. I can’t put my finger on it, but that is exactly why one should see their films.

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3 responses

25 05 2009
Mango

Awesome that you are seeing more P&P, but I’m not sure why you’re relying on so many awkward comparisons. I don’t think the Shimizu similarities go very far, and both are doing very different and interesting things. Even comparisons to The Small Back Room aren’t all that helpful (for me, the reader). You ought to be more descriptive in your reviews.

And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their technicolor work.

25 05 2009
Jake Savage

I tend to make awkward comparisons when I first start watching things with new directors. I’m not really comparing it to THE SMALL BACK ROOM, I just mentioned how they’re different. I agree that Shimizu and the Archers are different, but I think something should be said about their examples of films with less straight-forward examinations of characters. It’s difficult to describe, but I think the comparison to MALDONE (also an awkward one, I admit) kind of helps. It’s very much a “subjective” (a terrible word to use here, but hopefully you’ll know what I mean) kind of filmmaking…we see things through the eyes of the characters. Not literally, of course.

I’m planning on seeing THE RED SHOES and THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP next.

27 05 2009
Jeff Duncanson

Have you seen Black Narcissus, Jake?

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